Carey Newman resigned from the Greater Victoria School District’s Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee May 13, citing ‘a pattern of systemic racism.’ (Courtesy of Carey Newman)

Carey Newman resigned from the Greater Victoria School District’s Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee May 13, citing ‘a pattern of systemic racism.’ (Courtesy of Carey Newman)

‘Pattern of systemic racism’: SD61 Indigenous committee member resigns, calls for change

More than 350 people had added their names in support by midday Friday

A member of the Greater Victoria School District’s (SD61) Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee has resigned from his role in an open letter to the district, citing “a pattern of systemic racism” and “deeply entrenched paternalistic attitudes.”

Carey Newman says recent actions by the district during its budget talks – namely, limiting Indigenous representation during a meeting, and using discriminatory language within its survey and presentation slides – were the final straws, but that the problems started earlier.

In 2017, SD61 hired a non-Indigenous person as District Principal of Indigenous Education. At the same time, the Indigenous woman who had been district coordinator of Indigenous education for several decades retired. Newman says when the district posted her job, it didn’t specify that applicants should be Indigenous.

Concerned, Newman says he reached out to the district and, while the posting wasn’t changed, an Indigenous woman was hired. He was then invited to join the Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee. Newman also has a daughter at Oaklands Elementary School where he and his wife are working with students on a carving project, and runs a scholarship for Indigenous students.

On March 1, during a district education policy and directions meeting, Newman was again concerned when board trustee Ryan Painter noted there were too many Songhees and Esquimalt Nations members present, according to board bylaw. The meeting was subsequently cut short.

Painter didn’t respond to an interview request in time for publication.

In early May, the district released a budget survey where one question asked participants to rank the importance of Indigenous students’ success against that of non-Indigenous ones. Following backlash, the district removed the question and promised data from it would not be used.

READ ALSO: SD61 budget survey question ranks Indigenous learners’ success against others

On May 10 during a board meeting, several presentation slides drew criticism, as under the heading of reconciliation they asked whether Indigenous students participated in band and if music programs would improve their success. Investing in Indigenous education has been listed as a reason the district is making cuts to programs like music.

READ ALSO: SD61 continues to face backlash over approach to Indigenous learners in budget talks

Taken together, Newman wrote, he believes these events are indicative of “a pattern of systemic racism that can no longer be seen as a collection of unfortunate missteps, but rather as proof of deeply entrenched paternalistic attitudes towards Indigenous people and our education that continue to this day.”

He is calling on the district board and administration to publicly apologize for the “cynical and flagrant” use of the word reconciliation, and to develop a transparent plan on how it will change.

“I want a commitment to have Indigenous voices represented at every level of district decision making, not after the fact, impotent, consultation as I have experienced with the ad hoc committee, but as part of the process from beginning to end,” Newman wrote.

The school district didn’t respond to an interview request.

As of midday Friday, more than 350 people had added their names in support of Newman’s letter, including trustees Rob Paynter and Diane McNally. It can be found at docs.google.com.

READ ALSO: Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Indigenoussd61

Just Posted

Colin Davidson won $100K on a Set for Life scratch ticket in Sooke. (BCLC photo)
Sooke man does ‘happy dance’ after scratching a $100,000 Set for Life win

Colin Davidson plans to renovate his home and invest in his daughter’s education

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

West Shore RCMP K9 Halla. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sound of RCMP dog enough to stop suspects in Oak Bay

West Shore RCMP K9 unit called in, didn’t get to chase

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

UVic Department of Anthropology chair and professor, April Nowell, at home with a copy of her new book, Growing Up In the Ice Age. (Courtesy of April Nowell)
New book by University of Victoria professor explores lives of Ice Age children

April Nowell spent two decades researching archaeological evidence of children, teens

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has embarked on a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for establishment of an independent urban Indigenous school. Pictured here, Tsawalk Learning Centre students at an Orange Shirt Day event in September. (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre looks to raise $1 million for urban Indigenous school

Centre says independent school would be first of its kind in B.C.

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Most Read